Bent on becoming a veterinarian like his grandfather and uncles, Joseph H. Boardman never forgot the epiphany that instead led to his becoming a state and federal transportation official and overseer of the nation’s passenger railroads.
“My dad walked one day with me out of the barn, and we looked at Route 69, which goes by our farm,” he told Railway Age magazine in 2013. “A Greyhound bus went by. There weren’t many people on it, and I thought, That’s kind of a waste of money.”
But his father explained that “there are a lot of people that need to get around that don’t have a car, that don’t have a way to get around,” Mr. Boardman recalled, “and it got me thinking about that fact and the necessity for connections.”
He later realized that his hometown, Rome, N.Y., had prospered only because “we had connectivity to the rest of the world” — a canal (the Erie), a railroad, a bus system. And during college, when he worked as a bus driver to make ends meet, he said, “that really started me in transportation.”
Mr. Boardman, who eventually became the president and chief executive of Amtrak, presiding over increases in ridership and revenue, died on March 7 in Pasco County, Fla., where his family had a vacation home. He was 70 and lived in Rome. His wife, Joanne, said the cause was a stroke.
Although his public agenda was mobility, Mr. Boardman had a track record for longevity. He was the second-longest-serving president of Amtrak, from 2008 to 2016. His years at Amtrak followed a record-breaking term, from 1997 to 2005, as New York State’s transportation commissioner.
“Putting butts in seats,” he once said, “has occupied most of my career.”
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